By Daniel Bliley
Every expert, blog, and marketing association touts the powerful benefits of content marketing.
In an article published by CMO.com, 72 percent of polled marketers stated branded content was better than magazine advertising and 69 percent felt it was more effective than direct mail or PR.
Marketers believe content is a critical part of their toolbox, but the reality is that limited resources make an effective content strategy difficult, especially for smaller teams.
It can be challenging to scale your operation to meet the growing demands placed on marketing departments and deliver KPIs that lead to more trust, budget, and staff.
Watching brands such as Coca-Cola, GE, and IBM churn out engaging content can make the job seem daunting.
Content Marketing Tools
While big budgets, extra resources, and chief content officers at the helm make it look effortless, smaller teams can still build effective content by using some free or low-cost content marketing tools that drive strategy.
Scale your team—and your content—by “hiring” these five lean and powerful candidates.
Candidate No.1: Grammarly
Job Function: Proofreader/Copy Editor
An important part of being successful is having quality creative.
It is also essential to your brand integrity that the content keeps with proper grammar standards.
PR blunders and judgment errors can derail brand value.
So can incorrect punctuation, misspellings, and poor syntax.
Some organizations have copy editors or proofreaders on staff.
In some instances, larger print partners or agencies may include this service.
But with a small department, time and money can be limited.
Grammarly is a great tool that gives your department a full time proofreader.
It checks your content and helps keep you mistake free.
The basic version offers more powerful editing than your typical word processor and a small monthly fee provides access to advanced grammar services that further improve writing.
Sign up for free at grammarly.com and keep your grammar quality in check with your very own copy editor.
Candidate No.2: Asana
Job Function: Project Manager
Another critical piece in content marketing is organization.
If you don’t have the luxury of a project manager on staff or the budget for expensive project management software, marketing leaders can turn to Asana.
Asana gives you the ability to easily create assignments, build timelines, and populate calendars around topics.
This helps plan your content in advance and keeps everyone updated on their roles.
It also gives you a visual view of what your team has in the queue so you can properly manage the workflow.
Managers can look at individual team members and assign new content tasks based on current workloads.
Teams can also communicate within projects and upload versions of their content, keeping a digital track record of progress.
Best of all, many of the powerful features are free, giving you the oversight of a project manager without the cost.
Visit asana.com to help get your team organized and hitting your target objectives.
Candidate No.3: Keyword Tool
Job Function: SEO specialist
Reaching an audience without a lot of paid distribution can be a headache.
If your budget can’t handle thousands of dollars in paid placement, you need an SEO expert on your team to help zero in on the target audience.
However, hiring a specialist for SEO or outsourcing to an agency might not work in a lean environment.
You need an ace in the deck.
Keyword tools help you identify phrases your audience may be searching so that you can incorporate those terms in your content.
While most people head straight to the AdWords tool from Google, there are other options available.
Keyword Tool is a free solution to check for search phrases.
You can put a topic in the query box and the website will return common phrases being searched across Google, Bing, YouTube, and the App Store.
Writers can then strategically use these terms in the content to give it a greater chance of being seen by the intended audience.
You can still generate traffic and boost your search results without having to compete for ad space.
This gives you the added resource benefits of a search engine expert without the salary.
(Editor’s Note: Moz just released a keyword tool that looks to be pretty robust.)
Candidate No.4: Sketch
Job Function: Designer
Content is mostly driven by words, but it is important to supplement your copy with great visuals.
The problem is that design work can be one of the most labor-intensive parts of the creative process.
If you have designers on staff, you may want them working on larger campaigns or more complex work.
Small teams can turn to flexible software to essentially employ a part-time graphic designer.
Sketch, a design app, is available to download for just $99 and can help marketing teams develop quick graphics at scale for social media and blog posts.
It is relatively simple to learn, easy-to-use, and capable of exporting a wide range of media, including: App icons, mobile splash screens, website mock-ups, and social media images.
It also has extensive training material online and downloadable plug-ins that makes life easier, especially for software and technology companies that work predominantly with digital files.
If you don’t have a background in design or are having trouble coming up with design concepts, consider Canva.
Canva is an online design portal that provides an assortment of free templates, ranging from social media graphics to postcards to magazine layouts.
The basic version is free while a business plan has a small monthly charge that gives you access to more features, including a full brand guide work area.
Both of these content marketing tools augment your creative look and feel and can help give you an extra boost in the design department without adding expensive staff or licensed-software seats.
Candidate No.5: Brainsparker
Job Function: Creative
When your content plan is running on fumes, it may need a little creativity boost.
Any team, when focused, can generate quality content that gets noticed.
The challenge is replicating your success over time.
When you need help coming up with ideas or breaking through writer’s block, you can employ a personal brainstorming assistant.
Brainsparker is a free app to download and helps break the creative rut.
The app works by filing through cards that have random thoughts or phrases.
You can think of a topic you are working on and then use the phrases or ideas on the cards in Brainsparker to begin writing.
It is a great replacement for having time-consuming brainstorm sessions and can provide you with the creative lift you need to keep your content consistent at a high level.
Creating great content that effectively drives business is difficult.
We all believe it is essential, but the desire can sometimes give way to the obstacles small teams face.
If your resources are stretched thin, leveraging these five content marketing tools can help your team scale with a variety of skill sets and positions, including project manager, graphic designer, SEO specialist, copy editor, and a creative idea generator.
This gives you the added firepower to execute a formidable strategy without having to explain a lot of capital expenditures to the CFO.
image credit: shutterstock